Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), most U.S. employers are required to offer as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who are expecting or adopting a child. This means that if you are pregnant, you can take off work for up to 12 weeks and not fear losing your job. However, FMLA has different guidelines that every employed mom-to-be should understand.
Paid, Unpaid and in Between
One common misconception about the FMLA is that it guarantees continued pay during maternity leave, just like paid time off (PTO) or paid sick leave. Depending on the specifics of your employer’s leave policy, you may get paid leave, but it’s not a legal requirement. If your employer offers this, consider yourself lucky — such a generous leave policy is rare.
However, many employers do offer paid maternity and paternity leave for one or two (or more) weeks of your FMLA leave. Some companies even offer short-term disability benefits for maternity leave. Short-term disability may be available to you for a portion of your maternity leave, though you may not be eligible to collect disability pay right away. The percentage of your normal pay covered by disability will depend on your company’s disability package.
Some employers are actually exempt from offering family medical leave in certain circumstances, so it’s important not to assume you’re covered under the FMLA just because you’re employed. For instance, the FMLA isn’t applicable to you if:
- You work for a company with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
- You have worked for your company for fewer than 25 hours per week for 50 weeks.
- You’re in the company’s top tenth percentile of wage earners and your employer can prove that by taking leave you would significantly harm the company’s finances.
Calculating Cash Flow
It’s crucial to meet with your human resources department as early as possible to find out what kind of paid leave or short-term disability, if any, is offered during the FMLA period. This will help you figure out how much money you will receive during your maternity leave. Another factor to consider is how much PTO you will be able to use. Check with your human resources department to find out if your company has any policies regarding the use of PTO or paid sick leave during FMLA leave.
Once you have a clear sense of how your finances will change during maternity leave, you will be able to decide how much FMLA time you feel comfortable taking. Setting aside some of your income during pregnancy can help pad your finances come leave time. For instance, if you save 10 percent of each paycheck beginning in week 10 of a full-term pregnancy, you will have approximately three weeks worth of pay saved up by the time your little one arrives.